UND’s Smart Restart: Housing, Dining and Wellness

Leaders of housing, dining, health and wellness talk Fall 2020 planning and reopening

With some of its buildings previously closed, the Walsh Quad will once again be occupied under UND’s new plan for its residence halls. UND archival image.

If there is a common thread across UND Housing, Dining and Wellness & Health Promotion this summer, it’s planning for a fall semester the way they always have.

What’s changing are the points of emphasis and the caution inherent with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

That has translated to a higher degree of planning than most fall semesters require.

“Our goals for UND’s residence hall experiences aren’t changing,” said Troy Noeldner, UND’s director of housing. “What’s changing are the techniques and the ways we have to adapt to circumstances.”

The same could be said for Dining Services and UND’s Wellness Center, according to their respective directors.

“We’re looking at how we can operate while keeping students and staff safe,” said dining director Orlynn Rosaasen.

“Our first priority is making sure we have a safe environment for everybody,” agreed Chris Suriano, who leads UND Wellness & Health Promotion.

UND’s administrators and campus restart planning committee, which includes Noeldner and Rosaasen, are hard at work this summer determining what “safe” means for a reopened campus in August.

Campus is going to look different, but the University’s leaders are determined to maintain the spirit, excitement and fun of the on-campus experience.

Housing

Demand for on-campus housing is on par with last year’s numbers, which is a great sign, said Noeldner. He remarked that UND is excited to have students back, but some adjustments are being made in recognition of the pandemic, and in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and other guidelines.

Troy Noeldner

“The biggest efforts we’re trying to support are opportunities for physical distancing and reducing density in locations that can minimize the spread of COVID-19,” Noeldner said.

Currently, the expectation is to house one student per room throughout all of UND’s residence halls. Such a move means all of the University’s previously closed halls are reopening, with the exception of Swanson Hall, which is closed due to Memorial Union construction.

By the fall, all residence buildings will have electronic door access installed, as well as improved WiFi infrastructure.

Noeldner said the improvements to internet access are especially important as hybrid course delivery will be more common on a coronavirus-resistant campus. Students will need to be able to reliably connect for courses, should the need arise.

Signage will be developed for housing spaces as Noeldner’s team assesses square footage for lounges and other typical gathering spaces. The intent is to help students learn about UND’s new considerations for health and safety.

“First and foremost, our goal is to educate,” said Noeldner of recommending limits for resident hall tenants. “If we’re doing things for the right reasons, trying to keep everyone safe, I think there can be a positive culture created.

“We don’t want socialization to stop in the spaces designed for it, but we may need students to think a little differently regarding how they go about it.”

There has always been an expectation for students to take an active role in keeping spaces clean, maintaining hygiene and protecting their own health, said Noeldner, and that will be emphasized even more in the semesters to come.

The changes to student density, through single-room assignments, not only help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but also help minimize the impact, should a positive case occur. Noeldner said that UND Housing is working to develop a location that can house students who may need to isolate for a two-week period, should they come into close contact with or contract COVID-19. For the spring and summer, Walsh Hall is that designated location, though no on-campus cases have been identified.

Noeldner said that plans are in place to provide meals for quarantined students, should such an arrangement be necessary, and that those students will be contacted daily for check-ins and health consultation. After two weeks, residents will be medically assessed and promptly moved back to their original room assignment, should they be cleared.

Another aspect for housing that will continue to take shape through the summer is move-in day, a typically crowded affair occurring the weekend before classes start. UND Housing is working with Welcome Weekend planners to identify ways to minimize the density of that process, while also expediting it.

The early ideas, according to Noeldner, align with the online scheduling model that helped students check out of their UND rooms in the spring semester. More information will be available through the UND Housing website as it becomes available.

“All of the decisions that are being made at the campus level and within UND Housing are with student health and well-being in mind,” the housing director said. “There are a lot of people working hard to find the right solutions for as many people as we can.”

Student Health Services

Student Health Services, which implemented telehealth appointments in late March, will maintain its services into the new semester. At the beginning of June, the clinic resumed its physical evaluations for aviation students while implementing mobile check-ins, sneeze guards, touchless transactions and standards for social distancing at its McCannel Hall location.

Medical and nursing staff have completed North Dakota Department of Health contact tracing training and plan to assist contact tracing of students in the fall. There is also an effort to procure a testing machine to be set up at Student Health Services that could complete more than 1,000 tests per day. If available and implemented, the machine could deliver results in as little as three hours.

“The Student Health Services clinic continues to work on a phased reopening plan,” said Sarah Gustafson, nurse practitioner and member of the planning committee. “The goal is to bring in certain visit reasons so the needs of the student population are met while keeping students and staff safe.

“The goal is to have the clinic fully reopened by Aug. 1, keeping in mind that students will likely have options to be seen in person or complete their visit via telemedicine. We want students to have options with how we can best serve them.”

The team at UND Dining Services is planning to implement protections for both diners and staffers ahead of the fall semester. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Dining

If UND achieves Level 3 on its safety scale, which means low risk of transmission between students, faculty and staff, UND’s dining rooms will be able to open, said Director of Dining Services Orlynn Rosaasen.

The “open” status, though, comes with some important caveats.

Orlynn Rosaasen

“We won’t be able to go back to full seating capacity, given the layout of our dining rooms,” said Rosaasen, adding that self-serve options such as salad bars and buffets will not be available.

Minimizing close contact for students is a priority as Rosaasen develops protocols for the fall, as well as making sure hand sanitizer is widely available. Plexiglas barriers are going to be installed to keep a level of separation between students and dining staff, and floor marks are going to be made both in dining rooms and production areas.

“We are planning for staff to be fully compliant in wearing appropriate PPE,” Rosaasen said. “Hand-washing has always been a priority, so there are already a good number of hand sinks in our kitchens.”

However, should safety levels fall to moderate or high-risk levels, the dining rooms of UND will be closed and meals will be offered in a takeout-only capacity, as they were after Spring Break this year.

“We’re trying to find various forms of technology that can help with this reopening effort, including touchless payment options,” Rosaasen said. “Also what we’re working on is letting people preorder food through a mobile app, as well as potentially reserving dining room seating.”

The technology is a linchpin for UND Dining Services plans. With students traditionally using their UND IDs to swipe for dining and flex dollars, a mobile credential system may also be in the works, said Rosaasen.

“There are many pieces to it, and other departments need to be involved,” he continued. “As we look at a mobile credential, if we’re going to implement that, it isn’t just for dining. And obviously we aren’t the only institution looking at these options.”

Mobile ordering may also play an important role at UND’s other retail locations, including convenience stores and coffee shops, according to the dining services director. The plan is to have these locations open across campus come fall.

If a drink or food item needs to be made-to-order, the idea is that people can order ahead online to prevent lines and crowding. That way, the walk-in purchases for grab-and-go items can still be fully available, said Rosaasen.

UND Dining Services intends for all of its convenience stores and coffee shops to be open in the fall, but they’ll also be encouraging students to order ahead to prevent lines and crowding. UND archival image.

Campus Catering is another popular service that UND intends to maintain for the fall semester. For those familiar, many catering setups involve buffets or self-serve offerings. Much of that will have to change to prevent person-to-person contact through utensils and vessels.

Instead, catering setups will now be fully staffed and served. Rosaasen remarked that many aspects of Dining Services are going to be more labor-intensive, given the circumstances; but that as these and other efforts reduce risk, UND’s dining experiences over time, he hopes, can move back to normal.

As a member of the pandemic planning committee that meets daily, Rosaasen has appreciated the way his participation shapes UND Dining Service’s planning process.

“I’m thankful to be part of that team, and it helps us keep informed on what the overall campus is talking about and what direction we’re going in,” he said. “That helps us know what Dining Services needs to address in its own operations.”

Wellness Center activities are going to be more appropriately spaced, and will potentially require different venues, but the idea is to maintain as much programming as possible to help UND students make healthy choices. UND archival image.

Wellness & Health Promotion

“We’re trying to assess every program and figure out what we can deliver while maintaining safety and proper distancing,” said Chris Suriano, director of wellness & health promotion at UND.

The UND Wellness Center not only houses a comprehensive weight room, track and multiple spaces for physical activity, but also spaces for wellness, including the Culinary Corner Kitchen.

As planning continues for fall, Suriano and his team are looking at ways to continue delivering programming that promotes health and well-being during a difficult time.

Christopher Suriano

“When we reopen, our kitchen will initially be closed to participants, so we’re going to start with not having in-person classes,” he said, as an example. “But we’re going to continue offering classes available online through our YouTube channel. We can keep teaching people about healthy cooking but in a way that’s open for mass consumption.”

His focus is ensuring a safe facility through staff training, improved disinfecting practices and operations that adhere to proper physical distancing. While the Wellness Center is currently not open, members can expect most of the facility’s offerings to be available at the start of the fall semester.

When it opens, members can expect to scan themselves in for access. Previously, a staff member would take an ID card to swipe.

“We want coming back and participating to be an easy experience for our students and members,” Suriano said.

Equipment is expected to be more appropriately spaced throughout the Wellness Center, and staff, while doing routine walkthroughs to disinfect, will also be counting the amount of people in the facility’s sections. These counts will shape a real-time track of capacity, which will be available online and through the UND Wellness app.

“This can allow our members to look at the numbers and get a sense of whether it’s a good time for them to go work out or not,” Suriano said.

As well as “touchless” access to the facility, the Wellness Center plans to keep its app and website updated with real-time measures of capacity. UND archival image.

Current guidelines dissuading participation in close-contact sports are going to impact UND’s intramural offerings for sports such as ice hockey, basketball, soccer and more. But the Wellness Center staff is going to be adding some newer sports while promoting activities such as esports leagues, which can be conducted remotely.

“Sports such as golf and racket sports already have enhanced distancing, so we’re going to try to do more of those,” the director said.

Group exercise sessions are being moved from the studio spaces to the multi-purpose activity court to achieve proper physical distancing.

Locker rooms and showers will be closed off to Wellness Center members, and Suriano recommends that people show up to the Center ready to work out and leave once they’re done. The bathroom facilities within locker rooms will remain open.

Suriano anticipates staffing of the facility to remain steady, but said that duties for staff may slightly shift with the increased emphasis on cleaning, and on tracking the building’s capacity. Knowing who is in the building at any given time could be helpful for contact tracing, should someone test positive for COVID-19.

For the most current information regarding notifications about the coronavirus, UND’s response to in and any impacts on university classes, operations or events, visit UND’s Coronavirus Updates Blog. This blog will be updated regularly throughout the summer and fall.